What is the Cheapest Way to File Taxes?
You don't want to be one of the 7 million Americans who don't bother to file their taxes.
However, the added cost of filing often feels like it's adding insult to injury. As much as you'd love to be able to hire an accountant to handle your taxes for you, it's just not in your budget.
So, what's the cheapest way to file taxes accurately and responsibly?
That's what this post is all about.
Read on to learn how you can save by using the cheapest tax filing service fit for your needs.
If You Make Less Than $66,000
Interestingly, the cheapest way to file taxes often depends on your overall income levels.
If you make less than $66,000 (learn more about the average American income in this post) then the good news is that there are ways you can do it for free.
What's even more surprising is that the IRS actually helps to make that happen. They have a list of affordable tax software, but they also have what's called the Free File program.
To do it, you'll need to make sure you have your Social Security number, as well as the Social Security numbers of your spouse or any dependents. You'll also need to have a copy of the previous year's tax return, so that your Adjusted Gross Income can be calculated.
When it comes to the types of income and receipts you'll need to show, remember they include (at minimum:)
- Income from rentals/real estate
- Social Security Benefits
- W-2 forms
- 1099-DIV, 1099-INT, 1099-R, and 1099-G forms
- Small business receipts
Remember that you'll need to make sure you truly qualify to use the Free File Program.
Take a hard look at the income and age requirements to make sure. Depending on your other forms of income and any loans you have, you may need to file additional paperwork.
If You Make More Than $66,000
Even if you over $66,000 a year, you may still love a good bargain and want to find the cheapest place to file taxes.
The good news?
In spite of your higher income, you still have lots of options.
You might be surprised to learn that you're still eligible to use the Free File program on the IRS website. Still, there are a few extra steps you'll need to take. You need to have your tax return from the past two years on hand, and you won't be able to get help with state tax prep.
And instead of a simpler question-and-answer format, if you make over $66,000, you'll have to show that you truly understand how to file.
Though we know you want to ensure that you're correctly filing your taxes, it's important to remember to withhold enough out of your paycheck in the first place. No one likes having to fork over much more than they bargained for to the IRS.
However, a shocking 30 million Americans currently don't withhold enough of their earnings to cover taxes.
Play it safe and always set aside more than you think you need to pay if you earn over $66,000.
If You Need In-Person Help
We'll cover the cheapest online tax filing options in a moment, but we do want to let you know that there is a free in-person filing option as well.
It's known as the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, and it's designed to help earners who make less than $54,000 per year. It's also a wonderful solution for those who struggle with English, or those with moderate to severe disabilities.
The program also has a heavy focus on helping those over the age of 60 to file their taxes.
The volunteers, all of whom are certified by the IRS, can help you understand how to file your taxes the right way. In some cases, they'll be able to help you regardless of your age. So, it's always a smart idea to check to see if you qualify for this kind of aide.
Try Online Tax Filing
If you're looking for the cheapest way to file taxes, you might start by looking into online options.
The benefit of most online filing systems is that they don't require you to be a certain age or place limits on your overall income level. Plus, they're intuitive to use, and will allow you to store your returns for use in the future.
You're also able to file both your individual and family tax returns online. In some cases, you'll be able to find online options that cost you less than $50 in total.
Look for online services that offer free chat support, and allow you to import your past tax returns to their site.
Above all, you should be on the lookout for the most secure option possible. If you're filing your taxes online, then remember that your data is protected by the host of the website.
You don't want to run the risk of having your tax information fall into the wrong hands.
Do your research to make sure you know how the online options you're using will work to ensure your data doesn't become compromised during the filing process.
Consider Using Tax Filing Software
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that one of the most popular cheapest tax filing options is tax software.
Of course, it's no secret that there are tons of different software options out there (if you don't believe us, check it out here.)
So, why do so many people opt to use tax filing software?
First of all, doing so is one of the cheapest possible options. You'll be able to get this software for under $100 in the majority of cases, and you won't have to pay anything at all to file your federal tax return.
It's also an incredibly fast option. The truth is that you just don't want to have to deal with spending hours filing your tax return. Using filing software makes the whole process run much more smoothly than trying to figure it out on your own.
You can also take a look at the different kinds of software, and find a user-friendly interface that works for you.
But how can you tell if it's a smart move for you to use filing software as opposed to an accountant or another option on this list?
If you're single and not self-employed, filing software is generally a good option. The same goes if you're not a business owner, don't itemize, and if your own taxable asset is your income.
When You Should Use a Professional
We know that you're interested in the cheapest place to do taxes.
However, the truth is that sometimes, you really are better off getting professional help.
Remember that, if you make a mistake on your tax return, the IRS will eventually find out. And they're not exactly going to let you get off without paying what you owe.
If you're concerned about your ability to properly use or understand tax software or free options, the best thing to do is hire an accountant.
In fact, doing so often ends up saving you money if you're in a higher income bracket. They can look for potential write-offs and ways to save, and can even mediate for you.
Plus, they also have access to much higher quality and detail-oriented tax prep software than the affordable or free options we've discussed here.
You also have the added benefit of being able to call them and ask for advice at any time. This means that, before you make a business decision or a major move related to your personal finances, you can ask them how it would impact your taxes.
And if you run into trouble when it's time to file your returns?
It certainly doesn't hurt to have a professional accountant on your side.
Find the Cheapest Way to File Taxes for Your Income Level
We hope that this post has helped you to better understand how to find the cheapest way to file taxes.
Remember that your income level, your age, and your general tax situation will all influence the method that works best for you.
Above all -- resist the temptation not to file or to file incorrectly. Trust us when we tell you that it will come back to haunt you in the end.
Looking for additional financial, budgeting, or tax advice?
Keep checking back with our blog to make sure you have access to all of the latest tips and tricks. No matter where you're looking to save money, we'll help you to learn how to make it happen.